Sunday, July 11, 2010

Finally Home Forever!!!

Ahhh, we're finally home. We actually landed in the US at about 8:40am (PST) on July 9 in San Francisco. Xander became a US citizen shortly after that, and I think he was asleep. We hustled through the airport, and thanks to our immigration officer who rushed us through, we made our connection. Took a short 3 hour flight to Dallas and were finally home. It is great to be home!

We were welcomed by some cute signs made by some friends and a clean house, as I had arranged for a cleaning lady to come the day before we returned home. :)

I have to admit that we aren't settling in very easily. If anyone has ever had jet lag you know what a bear it can be, add two toddlers with jet lag and, well, it's not pretty around here. We know it will take time, but we can hardly wait to feel normal again. Xander seems to feel right at home. He explored the house right away, was pretty scared of the cats and dog, but is warming up to them quickly.

Thank you to everyone who commented. We were unable to read them while we were gone, but we have read each of them since returning home. We wish we could have posted more often, but it really was quite hard to find the time.

Thanks to my little sister to was the blog keeper while we were on our trip. She is a beautiful writer, and since re-reading what I posted I wished I had given her editing privileges, but I think y'all got the idea. Thanks, Auntie Meedo!

This will be the official last post of the adoption blog. It has been a wild 4 years to get to this point, and I know the ride has only just begun. It is really an amazing thing to know that the adoption portion is over. It hardly seems real. Thank you for all of your prayers, we truly could not have made it without them. The Lord answers prayers, and we were the lucky recipients of many of them.

Here are a few more random photos that I thought were blog worthy. Enjoy!

Our first attempt at swimming, it didn't go so well, but later in the trip we learned that Xander LOVES swimming!

This was the first time we put Xan in the stroller, it may have been his first time ever, and he thought he was on a ride!

C'mon! Does a smile get any cuter?

All of us together at McDonald's

Please keep up with us on our family blog Life in Texas, McNeely Style.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Almost Home

I'm going to say that this will be our last post before returning home. We haven't been as good at posting as we had hoped, but we hope you enjoyed what we did share. It has truly been the experience of a lifetime! We've spent the last few days shopping, seeing a few local sights and even relaxing. It has been nice to have some down time, it was much needed. I can't really say that we feel more rested, but we are not any more tired than we were before, so I guess that's the silver lining.

I think the last post was on July 4th. That evening we went to an Italian restaurant (we were under the impression it was American food), it was ok, but it was nice to venture out and hang out with our friends. It has been especially hot since we have been here. In fact, we've been told that it is the hottest it's been in 60 years, awesome. We did many outdoor things while in Fuzhou, but since getting to Guangzhou we have opted out of a few simply because it is so hot. We chose not to go to the zoo, which would have been fun, but we thought the kids would probably fall asleep and we would be left looking at animals we didn't really care about. Call us wimps, but we'll go to the zoo in Texas when we can all enjoy it! :)

We are headed out the take an oath. Basically to say that all the paperwork we filled out for the past 4 years, including the mounds that we have filled out since arriving in China, is true and we did not lie. Um, seems a bit pointless, but it is required by our lovely government so we will comply. Tomorrow morning we will get his US Passport which completes the last step in getting permission to bring him to the US. Thursday evening we head to Shanghai and Friday morning we board a plane for our LONG flight home. Ahhhh, finally!

It has been fun, exhausting, emotional, frustrating, humbling, and exciting. We will be so happy to be home so we can introduce Xander to his new home and all of his friends and family! See you soon!!!!!!

Macey enjoying a milk cream shake

Xander and Dada

Macey and Xander in their traditional Chinese duds!

Macey's dinner of fries and chetchup on Daddy's belly

Instead of going to the zoo, we just fed the monkeys in our room.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

And the Adventure Continues...

As you can plainly see, we are having a slightly difficult time keeping up with the blog on a daily basis. Waking up at 4am everyday has taken its toll on our productivity; therefore, here I am writing this at 5:30am on the 4th of July in China. The lack of free internet in our rooms does not help us either.

The kids are playing well together, especially yesterday afternoon when Mama was trying to take a nap. Xander continues to eat like a maniac and is very grumpy when his tummy is empty. He eats bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, fried rice, white rice, shrimp, yogurt, eggs and drinks tea…and that’s just what he has for breakfast, all of this after a morning bottle of formula. It is quite an adjustment for us who is used to a little girl who loves her yogurt and mac & cheese. I just don’t know what we are going to do when we get home and there is no buffet.

On Friday night we left Fuzhou for Guangzhou, where we will be until it is time to go home. The flight was delayed twice and finally left after 10pm. Macey was melting down before the flight, but settled down on Nana’s lap once we got going. Xander fell asleep once we got moving and was asleep for most of the flight after about 15 minutes of crying. Thankfully the flight was only one hour and fifteen minutes. For us that is our 4th flight of the 7 total that we will have to take on this trip.

After finally getting to bed at 1:30am Saturday morning, we were up at 6am getting ready for Xander’s medical check-up. We left the hotel at 8:15 and headed to a clinic. Knowing that about 60 families would be there at 10am, our guide Susan decided that being there when it opened would be best. She was right as usual and after about 15 minutes of waiting, we made it through the 3 stations in about 20 minutes. Xander weighed in at 10 kg (22.5 lbs) although we believe he is much heavier. I weighed him on the scale with and without me and estimated that he is about 24 lbs.

After the clinic we were able to do some shopping and I was finally able to find a soccer jersey that I have been looking for the entire time. Sports jerseys are not common around China, especially the Chinese national team since they are not very good. We met up with our group for lunch at a Thai restaurant. I loved the food, but many people in our group thought it was too spicy. After an afternoon nap, Xander and I got to share a cool father son moment by watching a little bit of Hoosiers on TV. I’m sure that won’t be the only sports movie we will watch together.

To celebrate the 4th of July, we are going to go to an American style restaurant with tons of other adoptive families. We have been incredibly blessed to be in a group of about 6 families that are some of the finest people we could have hoped to share this experience and adventure with. We send everyone back home greetings and hope y’all have a great 4th of July.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Our Visit to the Orphanage

Sorry this post is very overdue. It is amazing how every minute of the day is filled, and those that aren’t are spent sleeping or trying to regroup before another event. We are still exhausted, but having the time of our lives. So many memories are being made on this trip.

Our orphanage visit, well, it was unlike anything I could have imagined. I was worried about how Xander may react to returning to the only home he has ever known. I was worried about the emotions I may feel seeing his orphanage and even possibly his abandonment site. All of those things ran through my mind on the 2 ½ hour drive to the city where his orphanage was…it seemed like a LONG drive!

We were given a special privilege and our translator, who traveled with us to the orphanage, was the Director of International Adoptions for the entire province of Fujian. Because of this we were treated to a fancy lunch, and enjoyed a “lunch meeting” where we understood absolutely nothing!

Our drive over was gorgeous. We’ve decided that the “country side” in Fujian is worth the trip. It was full of green mountains decorated with some traditional Chinese buildings. It was a nice drive, and a good way to wind down after the visit was over.

When we arrived at Xander’s orphanage we were greeted by the director (whom we had met already and whose picture is in a previous post) and many of the residents. In China, a Welfare Institute includes an orphanage-type setting for children, but the elderly also live there. It is an interesting concept. We were brought into a room with a large table covered in bananas, peaches and lychee fruit (a native fruit). There were pictures on the wall of the orphanage director and many of the VIPs that she had met. Apparently she is also a representative of some sort. We enjoyed some fruit and were asked if we had any questions, which we really didn’t. We were then taken to Xander’s room. In the room were 3 cribs: 1 was where he used to be, 1 had a baby that was just brought to the orphanage a few days ago and 1 had a little girl maybe about 1 year old. We found out that these were the only babies in this orphanage. I don’t need to tell you that our little man came from humble beginnings.

We then left the orphanage after meeting a few of the people who cared for him and headed to a hotel for lunch. It just happened that this hotel (the nicest one in town) was the place Xander was abandoned. We visited the site, took some pictures and headed up to lunch. We were fed a great lunch and listened to some conversations about orphanage stuff—well, I guess that’s what they talked about. Xander was getting a little whiny, and the director noticed, so he quickly ended lunch and our visit was over. As we were saying our last goodbyes it was clear that our little boy was going to be missed.

Let me say this: orphanages are not good places, but I do believe that some are better than others. Due to Xander being one of very few babies, we believe he was given more attention than most. It was clear that people cared about him. When we got there everyone came out to greet him, and as we left there were tears. Xander was clearly confused while we were there, but I still think it was necessary for all of us to go. I’m not sure if it was the timing of the trip, or the trip itself, but Xander is a different kid (in a good way) since we returned. I’m not sure if 20-month-olds need closure, but it appears that our 20-month-old did.

View from the second floor near Xander's room

Xander's crib

Xander's nanny

Abandonment site at the entrance to the hotel

Monday, June 28, 2010

Adoption Day!

And now we are 4!!!

It’s official, we are the parents to the cutest little boy you have ever seen!!! It’s been quite a crazy 2 days. Nevermind we traveled half way around the world to add a member to our family, but all that we have done so far is unbelievable.

I can summarize this morning is one word, CHAOTIC! Wow. Today we had to take our little one’s to the civil affairs office. Or, as the English translation written on the wall said, the civil affires office J. It was there that we signed a bunch of papers, which was all in addition to the stack we signed yesterday. I think I signed my name 6 times today and maybe 2 times yesterday. Kevin signed at least twice that many. We had to answer a few questions about why we wanted to adopt and swear that we would never abandon Xander. I’m going to try and explain a little bit of the scene, bear with me. We walked into the government office, and it kinda looked like a concession stand. The orphanage director of the Fujian province was there, staff from each of the 4 orphanages was there and the lady who runs the show (don’t know her official title, but she was the one who made everything official and told me where to sign!). It was hot, as many buildings here do not have AC. There were some tables in the “waiting area” and as we walked in we sat down and before we knew it the orphanage staff was taking pictures of us with Xander, people were dragging us to the table to sign papers, we were given gifts from the director, then we were told we would each be taken into the office for an interview.

I truly believe that the people from Xander’s orphanage cared deeply about him. We had a tough time yesterday when he was given to us, and today was hard too. They wanted to hold him, so we obliged. I must say it was hard, because I knew he would only get upset again when they handed him back to me. He did really well, but to say that it was loud, chaotic and uncomfortable would be an understatement. I just wanted to run to a corner and protect my little guy, but I couldn’t do it. The staff from Xander’s orphanage was very sweet to us and him. They gave him a necklace that symbolizes longevity, and he has not taken it off. He loves it, and we’ll let him wear it as long as he wants to. They took many pictures of our new family and we happy to pose with us so we could have some. They gave us a photo album with pictures of Xander which included information about the orphanage, people’s names and addresses. They requested that we send a family photo to them after he had his surgery so they could see him again. I thought that was very sweet and will certainly fulfill that request. After a few more goodbyes, we were off to sign just one more set of papers, which made it official. So, on June 28, 2010 the McNeelys became a family of 4!!!

We then visited a Wal-Mart!!! Um, I’ll touch on this another day, it was 3 stories high! We got back to our room and ate a light lunch because we are looking forward to an early dinner of Shanghaiese food. I’m excited and nervous, I’m kinda chicken when it comes to eating food in foreign countries. Our guide is taking us so I’m going to assume she knows it’s safe for American bellies.

We brought out the bubbles again after lunch and captured some great smiles from Xander. He just loves the bubbles and the way his sister reacts to them! Macey and Xander get along SO well. We are praising God today especially for that reason. Those of you who have seen Macey around other little kids, especially those she does not know, know she can be a little toot. Not always very friendly. Well, she loves her brother. She gets excited to see him and just wants him to notice every little thing she does. They actually shared toys today, it was a wonderful thing to see. I’m so proud of my big girl, she has been such a trooper and is absolutely amazing. Not every 21 month old can travel half way around the world, add a brother and still be all smiles!!!

We are looking forward to a low key day tomorrow including a trip to Panda World. On Wednesday we have been given permission to visit Xander’s orphanage. Please start praying about that now, I know it will be hard on him again, but I think we will regret it if we do not go. There will be a lot of emotion from us, and him, that day.

Macey and Xander's first hug!

Xander's first caregivers

Signing papers

Signing more papers

"Hey, I've got one of those, too!"

His sweet smile!!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27, 2010

We arrived out our hotel in Fuzhou around midday and were able to settle in and eat lunch before we got the call that Xander was here. We went upstairs to a conference room and met him for the first time right around 4 pm.

As expected he was upset when he was handed over to his Mama, but after about ten minutes in our room we had him go from crying to giggling (with the help of bubbles).

He loves to be held, and as a matter of fact we have not put him down yet. After about 2 hours we went for a walk along the lake, which is next to our hotel. He fell asleep in the baby carrier and Macey fell asleep in the stroller.

Macey was a great help right from the start. She played in the bubbles and entertained Xander and even tried to comfort him when he cried. We finally have internet access, even though it is not free. Hopefully we will be able to post a little more often.

(The photo is foggy from the humidity)

Our Day in Beijing

Saturday was our day to be tourists around Beijing. Just in case we weren’t tired enough from a long day of travel, our guide completely wore us out. I’m convinced they do this to us so we will be able to sleep without anxiety the night before meeting our kids. Our guide, Susan, took us and four other families to the Forbidden City, which is a former palace, followed by a quick walk through Tien an men (sp?) Square.

Our next stop was a quick walk around the Olympic Village. We got to see the Cube and the Birdsnest, among some other cool buildings.

We then got back on the bus and headed to do a little shopping and have lunch. We had good food (family style) and Chinese fries, which are much better than the French version.

The last leg of our adventure was a section of the Great Wall just outside of Beijing. The hike to the top was extremely steep with some of the steps being over 1 foot tall. It was one of the most intense hiking adventures I have ever done. I’m proud to say that Allison and I both made it to the top along with only two other guys in our group. Allison is the only female in our group to make it all the way to the top.

One of the funniest things to happen was that the Chinese people were obsessed with Macey. People would stop and smile and wave at her while she was in the stroller, which didn’t seem like a big deal to us. It was only when they asked to take their picture with her or take a picture of all three of us. One couple even posed for a picture with all three of us. She was an absolute celebrity with her curly blonde hair and blue eyes.

Macey also met a friend in our group who was adopted from China 5 years ago and lives in Louisiana. They played together all day and sat together on our bus ride. They are best buddies. She is a very sweet girl and I absolutely love it when she says “y’all”.

Well, it is 5 AM on Sunday morning now and we are getting ready to leave for Fuzhou where we will pick up Xander this afternoon. We are all excited and ready, especially the Big Sister.

At the top of the Great Wall

Macey the celebrity posing for another picture

Macey and her new friend, Evan

All of us in front of The Cube in Olympic Village

Friday, June 25, 2010

Here is our first blog post from China!

Well, we got here!!! HOORAY! Macey was awesome on both plane flights, only a few meltdowns, but considering she had to be on a plane for a total of 14 hours, it's not too bad! Here are a few pictures of us enjoying our flight. We traveled in style, business class! We were able to sleep for quite a few hours and so did Macey. It was awesome.

We got to our hotel at about 5pm on Friday, China time, and couldn't wait to get to bed. We headed to a convenience store for some soda and water, and Kevin even got a Chinese beer. He can't really rave about it, but he needed to try it. We slept heavy, Macey included, and woke up EARLY...3:30am! Ha, we're not real sure what time we should have woken up, but we felt rested so we got up.

Today we are headed out for the entire day, one of our stops is the Great Wall and we are really excited! I'll post some pictures later.

Macey sleeping on our flight to Beijing

Macey watching Dora on the ipod

Kevin enjoying his dinner of Chinese beer and cookies

Macey in our hotel room in China with Xander's hat on yelling, "CHINA!"